Small businesses have been struggling as the country deals with the largest pandemic for over a hundred years. Depending on the sector you operate in, you may be close to giving up, or drowning in a sea of orders!
If there is one thing that the last twelve months have shown us, it is that nothing is ever predictable and without the core skills and planning, individuals and businesses can truly suffer.
However, such a crisis can also bring opportunity. Not just new customers but new ways of working, and innovative products and services. One area I think deserves attention is resilience. It is a word that is used commonly today as mental health issues are discussed more widely. But in this article, I want to talk about the resilience of your business.
The last year may have highlighted weaknesses in your business that you didn’t even know existed. But with some careful thought and a lot of hard work, you can build resilience into your business just as you can build muscle.
Here’s where to start:
Pandemic or not; plan for the worst
If you have never thought about all the risks that could affect your business, the pandemic may have caught you by surprise. Don’t let it happen again. Now is the perfect time to create a risk matrix for your business, defining every risk you could possibly face. Some may never happen but that doesn’t matter. Grade how likely and how damaging each one is. You choose your own scoring system. The highest priorities should be those both likely and damaging. When you have done that create plans for the highest priorities. Over time work through as many of the others as possible.
Here are some possible scenarios:
- What would you do if your key supplier put up your prices significantly or went out of business?
- How would you cope if your largest customer goes elsewhere?
- How would your business operate in a pandemic or a major recession?
- How would you respond if a competitor significantly undercuts you or produces a better product?
- What could change in your sector to upset your business? How would you manage?
It is easy in hindsight to see these things are important. But now you know, get planning. Do that risk assessment, focus on your biggest issues, and decide how you would deal with each one.
Concentrate on one thing at a time
As a business owner, you are likely to be managing a wide range of tasks and responsibilities. Does this help you? Not at all. The secret to success in any walk of life is focus. Concentrate on one thing at a time. You MUST decide your priorities every day, week, month. Build your work around one or two priorities, no more. If you do that, you will see improvements in the areas you are focusing on.
If you are a typical entrepreneur who is distracted by every new opportunity or issue, ask yourself if it will help you achieve the goals you set for your given period?
If you have a team, give them clearly defined goals and responsibilities. If you try and manage everything, inevitably you will get poor to average results. If you manage one thing that could improve your business, the chances are you will see a more positive result.
So, plan out your time over a period that suits you and set achievable but stretching goals. Focus on them and minimise everything else. That way you will have a stronger business and you won’t be suffering from burn-out.
Make your customer experience joyful.
OK, this may sound a little strange to some. What has this got to do with resilience you may ask? Well, when the chips are down, one of the best defences you have is the undying loyalty of your customers. So, if you don’t already, start treating your customers like precious jewels. Because that’s what they are.
Focus on your customer experience more than anything. Even better, get some objective friends or associates to assess your website and review your social media. Ask them to try and book or order something from you. Get feedback from your existing customers. Look at every pain point that occurs when a customer tries to connect with you. What do you do to follow up a customer order or interaction? Do you have a loyalty or referral scheme? There are so many things you can do to make your customers feel like they are special to you. Just make their lives easier and a bit more joyful!
If you make this one of the key priorities your business will naturally become more resilient. And even better; you will also increase sales and profits. Isn’t that what you’re in business for in the first place?
Strengthen your team
If you employ people, this one is a must. If you don’t employ people, then it’s time to think about what and to who you can outsource and who can you collaborate with?
Either way, the strength of your team is key to your results. The saying goes ‘You’re only as strong as your weakest link’. So, if you have a weak link, decide what you need to do about it. More training, better-defined job roles, and greater empowerment can all help improve performance. Recruit individuals with strong skills in the areas you need who will drive your business forward.
If you have a team, no matter how small, think about your leadership and the culture you have created. Do your team love working for you? Be honest. You’ll know in your heart if you have a team of advocates who would run through walls for you or clock-watchers who cannot wait for 5 o’clock to come round.
The same is true if you’re outsourcing. For example, if you have someone who manages your marketing and you’re not getting engagement on your social media pages, ask yourself why?
There are some obvious things to consider. Firstly, if you have a team, think about how you can improve the relationship with them and build engagement with the business. Can you make them stakeholders in some way? How can you make their work-life as enjoyable and fulfilling as possible?
If you do not outsource enough and cannot afford to take on staff, then build a network to help you find the right partners to work with you. Go back to point 2. Trying to do everything is a road to nowhere. Be discerning. Find people who you know will do a great job for you. Get recommendations. Provide some scenarios and see how they respond.
And get yourself a mentor, somebody who has been there and done it and can help you when the going gets tough. Ultimately, the stronger your team, the more resilient your business will be.
Choose the best systems you can afford
Technology can make a huge difference in managing your business more efficiently. It can also affect how your customers experience your service. Is your management system doing the job it needs to do? Do you have key processes automated so you can spend more time running your business? Do you have a good CRM system (Client Relationship Management) so you can build a customer contact strategy? Can customers buy online easily? I could go on, but the fact is an investment in technology could transform your business.
It is not necessary to buy the most expensive system on the market if you are a sole trader. But make sure when buying new software that you know exactly what your key priorities are. If the software you are reviewing cannot meet those needs, it should be a dealbreaker. Never compromise just because a system is cheap.
Software and technology that could really help your business include:
- Cloud bookkeeping – a great way to keep on top of your finances.
- Card Payment Systems – Make it easy for customers to pay you
- Project management tools – Trello and Asana make planning and task-management so much easier.
- Social media accounts can be managed on one platform like Agorapulse.
The better your core systems and effective use of technology, the greater your business resilience level is going to be.
Be ready to pivot
Arguably the biggest thing the last year has taught us is to develop flexibility. Industries and markets are always changing, now more than ever. Therefore, you need to learn to adapt and move with the needs of the market. Otherwise, you risk being left behind. This links with the first point in this article. Repair the roof when the sun is shining rather than waiting for storms to come. Ask yourself how quickly your business could change direction? Could you amend processes and working practices easily? Where is your market going and how could you second guess it? What do your customers need that isn’t available today?
These are all questions to ask because you never know when you may need to pivot. And often, businesses that work on this find new services or ways of working that grow their business exponentially.
As in the human body, flexibility builds greater resilience. Now is the time to work on yours.
These 6 tips could help you build a stronger and more resilient business. They will take some effort but that will be repaid many times as your business goes from strength to strength. As I said in point 2, just do one thing. Review one of these tips against your business as your key priority for the next week or month. I would love to hear more about what you find and the changes you put in place.
As always, if I can help you support you and help your business grow, please give me a call on 07970719428
Tips for creating your own online course with the help of ZoetheVA, case study to showcase your fabulous business.
It’s nearly Christmas and, in this most challenging of years, you may well be looking forward to getting together with at least some of your family to celebrate. Everybody deserves some joy this year as we focus on the things that matter most in our lives. But if you...
Have you created your own list? Not a shopping list or a to-do list, but one that holds details of your customers and prospects who have agreed that you can email them regularly. If you haven’t built a list yet, make it a top priority to do it. Here’s why: You’ll be...
How many people start a business and then get asked by someone, “what CRM system do you use?” For some people, you may as well have asked them to explain the four laws of thermodynamics! Seriously though, a CRM system or Client Relationship Management system is a must...
Well, this question comes up a lot, especially when I attend business networking meetings. VA stands for Virtual Assistant. A VA is a specialist working remotely, with a variety of technical and admin skills that can manage many of the tasks that stop you from...
Keeping a business running through a global pandemic is quite a challenge right? You may not be able to work in close proximity with your colleagues, suppliers, or customers. Homeschooling may have been a challenge until two weeks ago. But many did get more...